Ask FML: Should I reach out to brands I want to work with on Instagram?

Image Source: Instagram Direct Message

Image Source: Instagram Direct Message

Dear FML,

I’m interested in working with brands on social media. A friend of mine suggested that I send them direct messages to introduce myself. Is this an effective strategy for getting on their radar?

Sincerely, Desperately Seeking Brand Dollars

Dear Desperately Seeking Brand Dollars,

Whether you’re an influencer looking for collaboration opportunities, an aspiring content creator, or a budding social media manager, the first step is obviously to make sure that brands are aware of your existence. They can’t pay you if they don’t know about you, right? We understand why you may think that sliding into a brand’s DMs would be an effective strategy for getting on their radar; however, there are a few things you should know before doing so.

First, consider whom you’re talking to. Unless you’re messaging a very small company, it’s highly unlikely that you’re actually speaking directly to the decision maker – or even someone from the brand. If you’re pitching your services as a social media manager, you’re probably messaging your competition, not your future client. How motivated do you think they’ll be to pass along your information??? Moreover, the fact that you’re reaching out in this manner could highlight your ignorance to how social media management works, not showcase your credentials. Our advice: find another way.

If you’re seeking collaborations or an opportunity to create paid content, you wouldn’t necessarily be barking up the wrong tree by reaching out to the brand page; in many cases the person or agency monitoring the DMs may also be tasked with identifying collaborators and content creators. That said, there is definitely a right and a very wrong way to message the brand.

Here are the three biggest mistakes influencers and content creators make when reaching out to a brand, and how to avoid them:

  1. Using a generic copy/pasted message. “I love your brand! Let’s work together!” This may be true, but if it seems like something that could have been fired off to a bunch of prospects, it’s likely to get denied. The goal here is to get their attention; pretend you’re writing a cover letter for a job you really want at a company you love. Always mention the brand by name, and share a thoughtful message about why you would like to work with them specifically. If their product was part of a special experience for you, tell them!

  2. Making the request all about you. We would highly discourage you from describing how “up and coming,” “relevant” and “influential” you are – even if you wholeheartedly believe this to be true. Hook them with your authenticity and genuine affection for their brand, and they’ll likely click through to see for themselves. You wouldn’t meet someone for the first time and launch into how great you are, would you??? This is your opportunity to establish a rapport; save the selling and strategy advice for the interview (or at least until after they respond).

  3. Asking for a freebie. “Send me something and I’ll post about it!” Contrary to what anyone sending this message believes, brands are not just sitting around waiting for someone to ask for a freebie. In fact, we’ve seen influencers ousted from future campaigns because of a rude first impression. If you refer to the tips above, your genuine message may just result in a product sample or kind gesture – without you having to ask. An alternate idea may be to use your work to get on their radar, by creating and sharing content using their product.

The takeaway: When you’ve exhausted every other resource to get the attention of a brand’s decision maker, a DM could be your one chance to make a memorable first impression. Use it wisely.